Sunday, June 9, 2013

Number Crunching in: "My troops are better than yours"

by Anonymous Foodie

Foodie here, and despite working 50-60 hour work weeks *and* trying to coordinate a job/apartment search across state lines, I'm bringing you a little number-work and (hopefully) some food for thought.
Now, caveat emptor that this is by no means the be-all-end-all of arguments for or against any specific troop, army, or anything in between.  This is meant to be simply my answer of "oreally?" to a lot of the "Army X = suckzor because troop choice Y = not as good as troop Z" that the interwebs seems to be fond of.

Granted, for every blog/opinion saying the new Tau/Eldar are weaksauce, there's another voice jumping up and down with glee... so remember to take everything you read (even this) with a grain of salt.

The premise here is to take a look at what is "the standard" - the bolter-toting marine - and compare the damage output to some "lesser" troops - in today's case my humble Kabalite Warriors.

10 Basic Marines (aka, the Tactical Squad) rings in at about 140 points.  We're following the Dark Angel method because free weapon upgrades aren't "the norm" (maybe C:SM will keep that perk in later editions, maybe not), and because it makes the maths infinitely easier.
To keep things fair, they're being paired off against equal points of stock Kabalites (no blaster for me!).  In very un-Dark Eldar-esque fashion, I've even rounded down to 135 points (that's 15 warriors instead of the 15.5 I'd have for the full 140).

The test?  Line them up, and pull the trigger.  No turn-based action or who gets the jump on who, just blank numbers and who kills what.

Step the First
If we take a look at the respective Codex stats (which is what many derive initial reactions from) the Marines, as you may have guessed, pull wildly ahead.  The Marines wrack up 4.4 kills (about 40 points worth) while the Kabalites only register 1.6 (or 23 points).  So Marines are looking almost twice as good for the same points.

That's awesome!  Marines are rawkzors!!  Awww yeah Imperials!!

Because we're all playing those intro games from the starter sets, right?  Where you line up 10 orks vs 10 marines, walk across a board with 1 piece of cover, and see who wins, right?  Right??!!?

Or, maybe things are a little more detailed than that.  So let's take a look at the possibilities.

Step the Second
Let's throw those Kabalites into some cover (5+) and toss on that first Pain Token for Feel No Pain.  Cover is easy, almost a given if you want it.  The Token is *slightly* circumstantial.  It can be bought (via attached Heamy) with more points, doled out via a Cronos (kind of more points) or earned by killing a target of opportunity (freebie).

With what boils down to a re-rollable 5+, the kill rate that the Marines have drops to less than half of what it was - 1.98 (let's round to 2) for 18 points-worth of gory death.
Meanwhile the Kabalites shooting Marines sitting in a forest maintain the same kill rate (unless you start to factor going to ground, but hey, Kabalites can do that too - I'm ignoring that for now).

What if I got smart and placed a Ruin in my deployment zone?  Marine kills drop to 1.4 (1.5 for mathematical ease) and a point-death of 13.5 (less than one marine).

Step the... One and a Half
Yeah, that means I'm backtracking.  Because I can already hear the interwebs raging at me "Oh lo and behold ye Foodie, who gives the best of everything to his preciouses Kabalites!!  Pain tokens are cool, but they're not automatic!!!"

And I concede that you have a valid point - while getting FnP on my troops is within my rules, it is not a guarantee (without plugging more points elsewhere in the army).  It's nice to look at the best case scenario, but hardly effective when trying to get a good feel for what an army can dish out and take, realistically.

But cover, still, is mostly a given.  Unless you hate yourself and put nothing in your deployment zone worthwhile.  But hey, whatever floats your boat (or crashes it, burning and screaming, as the case would be).

So give the basic Kabalite a 4+ cover save, and the Marines clock in 2.2 kills (about 20 points).  Remember above when the Kabalites killed 1.6 marines, doing 23 points worth of damage?

Kabalites in Ruins > Marines in Ruins

Fun fact - Kabalites shooting at other Kabalites do more damage in every scenario compared to Marines.

So, Marines >>>> Kabalites in the open, but Kabalites > Marines when utilizing the board.  What's this mean in real life?

If I play like an idiot, I get beat like a bass drum.  If I start to think critically and use what amounts to baseline tactics, I start to get an edge.

This is what I have, in my current groggy state, have dubbed Variance.  A marine is a marine, which definitely has it's upside - you know what to expect, it's standardized, you're as durable advancing over open ground as you are ducking behind a forest.  Kabalites, on the other hand, have a *very* fluctuating capacity for damage based on how they're utilized.  Leave them in a bad spot and they're going to get hosed.  Take a bit of care with them and they start to stand up as well or better than Marines.

The Real Caveat
Obviously this is a closed test, and extremely limited.  What happens when you drop a cover-ignoring template?  What happens when you use S6 weaponry to ignore FNP?  What happens when you shoot lances at Marines?  What happens when Night Shields make it impossible for those marines to bring their guns to bear?

This is, at best, an eye opener to those who look at a stat-line and draw base conclusions from those numbers.  They're a start, sure, but hardly the finish line.  Kabalites (and other Dark Kin) are perhaps one of the more interested examples due to the ability to add special rules by killing things.  Tau altering BS or other modifiers with Marker Lights would be another example.

I'm interested in looking at other troops to see how they really stack up.  Is Tau BS3 really so bad that S5 and 30" doesn't make up for it (and that's before Markerlights)?  Maybe so.  Maybe not, when you consider the cost of the unit.  For now, it's time to put my mind (and body to boot) to rest.


  1. Wow! This is one of the better articles I've read on here and does a really good job at systematically and mathematically breaking down what Godfrey and I have been trying to underscore with marines over on Rites. It highlights the impact of "hording up," as well as placing emphasis on denying a save, something easier said than done for some armies. In part, that touches on a huge strength that Tau still/now have, is the ability to deny cover with any of their weapons. With the addition of some large 8/3s to the codex, it's very easy for them to quickly punish more elite army builds.

  2. I agree with Corvus! This article is spot on. Funny enough, I was talking to a very un-perspectived player a few weeks back (he's only been playing since 3rd, and has only ever played Tau), and he tried to bust out some math-hammer on me. We were comparing the Annihilator and the Hammerhead. He claims that I have a 2.18% better chance of killing the Hammerhead than he had of killing my Predator. I asked if this took into account the Disruption pod. Or the fire arcs. Or the movement. Or any of the other factors. Not accounting for any of this, I then asked if a 2% chance meant anything on a d6 in a turn, and he denied that argument. The idea of 'variance' and tactics just didn't matter because I had the better tank. I sighed often.
    I'm glad to see a 'math-hammer' article that actually addresses how ludicrous it can be if that's the way judgements are made. It has its place, for sure, but it's certainly not an exact science. Great work! Thank you.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. /oop - edited with errors fixed/

      I started a small SoB army and I've been finding that 12 point sisters of battle are /extremely/ durable, especially when you combo them with Kyrinov (the guy with the fearless bubble).

      The 3+ save isn't something I'm used to and, despite T3, they soak up a LOT of punishment. It's really changed my views of power armour troops in general.

      The thing to keep in mind is that marines are defensive units, not offensive. They project board control because they soak up a lot of punishment and don't go down very easily. Their firepower is pretty puny which is why they stack up badly against Kabalites.

      The problem with Kabalites is that they are in deep trouble as soon as they face off against troops that have the tools to deal with them. And there's a lot that can deal with them. Anything with flamers or that assaults at all well can deal with them easily. Compare that to a marine squad. They will probably lose in assault too but they'll stay there for a long time, giving your specialist troops a chance to respond.

      Both troops are good, but Kabalites' real strength is their poisoned shots whereas for marines it's their incredible durability. For damage output you need wyches. They, point for point, will shred MEQs. Especially once you add in a venom blade. The good thing about wyches is that you pick your fights so it's never a 1:1 fight. More like 3:1 :)

  4. "Variance" is the key to the whole game -- well, most of it. Yes, the raw stats and capabilities is the basis for the game, but a smart player thinking outside the box with a handful of poorly equipped troops can take out the marines who trudge blindly forward. It's how you play the game. The math exists to give it all a field on which to play, but dice can always come up with 1s or 6s when you least expect. Then it's the cunning general that survives and wins.
    I know the new Eldar are going to create a similar stir. I think it's good to mix things up and force old players used to winning by the same math-crunching methods to do some recalculations and find new ways to play.

  5. I think Kabalite Warriors are one of the most under appreciated units in the game. While its situational the poisoned shooting is obviously a lot better than bolters in specific circumstances. I noticed for instance that Thunderwolves started to disappear after the release of the new dark eldar codex.

    1. I played against a mock-ravenwing a week or two ago. I almost felt bad.


  6. Great article. The problem I have with Dark Eldar and the Kabalite warrior is that when you come out of cover you are dead. I would have liked the DE to have a FNP of 4+ to make them more viable. That being said, flickerfield should be a 4+ cover. If you changed that, I would bring them back out.

    It's not the statline about MEQ in my opinion its the power armor and ATSKNF that makes them so good.

    1. Kabalites are a niche unit. Wyches are just so much better, close combat is far more decisive than shooting. TBH if DE are taking many hits they're doomed. I don't think I've felt the FNP change too badly except when raiders explode.

      And who needs a 4+ cover save from a flickerfield when you get one for going flat out anyway?

  7. Excellent article. I really liked it and glad I found it!


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